The Art of Net Zero Design

By Emily Baker|Photography by Joel Hill Pictures

Sustainable materials, solar panels and a thoughtful design create an earth-friendly dwelling for an environmentally friendly couple.

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Achieving an architectural balance between design and environmental efficiency is no easy feat, but Harvey Hine, president of HMH Architecture + Interiors, accomplished it when constructing Susan Bohan and Shawn Mulligan’s home. Not only does the home produce more energy than it consumes in a calendar year, but its modern design is sleek and stylish. home1

Bohan and Mulligan both have environmentally oriented jobs, working for the Environmental Protection Agency and in Environmental Law respectively. “We got into the lines of work that we did because we have a very strong environmental ethic and wanted to carry it through all aspects of our life,” says Mulligan.They tasked Hine’s firm with the goal of building a house that “did not leave a carbon footprint,” and HMH Architecture+Interiors came through. This achievement includes a 10 kW solar intake system on the roof, floor-to-ceiling south-facing windows and a tight construction. In addition, they aimed to minimalize north-facing windows and incorporated overhangs to limit exposure to western sunlight.

Energy modeling prior to construction required the house to be built with fewer windows than initially intended. However, because of this and the other design features, the house produces 140 percent of its energy every year. Xcel has a program for eco-friendly houses that produce more energy than they use; there is an option to sell back that excess energy at the end of the year or allow it to roll over to pay off future years.

In addition to the eco-friendly nature of the house, there were many other design features important to Bohan and Mulligan. Highest among them was the family’s extensive art collection. “This was a tension in construction, [of] wanting to create a solar-friendly house and open up the south walls, but you don’t want to have direct sunlight on art,” says Mulligan.home3 “Harvey was excellent in marrying these obvious tensions that arise. He was very mindful of our direction.”

A final key aspect in the design of the home is the sustainable nature of the materials used to build it. A cost-effective house was extremely important to Bohan and Mulligan. “Non-sustainable materials require a lot of time, energy and resources to maintain,” Mulligan says. So, the house was built largely of stucco and metal, both low-maintenance surfaces.

Though it is challenging to create an eco-friendly, architecturally vogue structure, it is possible and was accomplished in Bohan and Mulligan’s beautiful Colorado home.

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